Design by Boris Bilinsky (1927).
The restored version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) was released in the UK this week by Eureka Video and my head is still spinning from having finally seen the missing scenes I’ve read about for years. There’s little I can say about the film itself that hasn’t already been said at length elsewhere, dramatically it’s not Lang’s best—M (1931) is a superior work on that score—but it’s still essential viewing for anyone interested in cinema history.
Brigitte Helm as cinema’s greatest robot: a screen grab from the Blu-ray edition at the Eureka site. Click for full-size.
The 25 minutes of restored footage add as much to the film as was claimed, especially in the longer sections, the removal of which rendered the motivations of several characters nonsensical, as well as creating disjunctions in the story. The plot thread concerning the dead woman Hel, wife of the master of Metropolis, Joh Fredersen, and idée fixe of the inventor Rotwang, was excised when it was felt that American audiences would laugh at the woman’s name; distributors allowing their low opinion of an audience’s intellect to ruin a work of art is nothing new. That cut at least had an excuse, however misguided. What’s more surprising about the restored version is seeing the minor cuts which were made throughout, many of them occurring in places which makes it appear that the negative had been attacked at random and for no good reason. The new material suffers next to the old which has better photography than many films made years later but the disparity isn’t so jarring once you’re used to it. A short but crucial scene is still missing but intertitles are used to describe the action. For now this is the most complete version of Lang’s film to date, with far more has been returned to it than I ever hoped to see.
• Watch the trailer
• The film restoration site
• Metropolis Robot: The Maschinenmensch Project
• Metropolis Film Archive: A Bibliography and Checklist of Resources
• Metropolis (1978) by Kraftwerk | Metropolis (1979) by Motörhead (apparently written after Lemmy had watched the film)